I'm a fair weather Forty-Niner. And that's okay.

When I first came to the US, I knew nothing about American football.  Almost twenty years later, I've improved a lot.  I know how the game works.  I know what fumbles and spot kickers are.  I   understand phrases like "second and five" and "two point conversion" and "Gatorade shower".  I know the difference between a pass play and a running play.  I even know there's such a thing as a dive running play and a draw running play!

Only in the Philippines: Filipino sentenced to prison for offending religious feelings

For about a month now, I have been planning to write a post entitled "Only in the Philippines".  It was supposed to be a semi-satirical post, gently mocking some of the crazy stuff that you see in the Philippines.  For example....

Only in the Philippines do travelers pack their belongings in gigantic cardboard boxes instead of suitcases (a 20x20x20 box can fit the most bulky items and still stay within the linear-inch luggage requirement of most international flights).

What's for lunch this week?

Lentil, mushroom and tomato wrap, blueberries, pineapples

I rarely pack hot lunches.  Getting hot food to stay hot is just too much of a challenge for me, so until each classroom in school gets a microwave oven, almost all of the lunches I pack are going to be some variety of cold sandwich.  But for the kids' sake as well as mine, I try to avoid using the square sliced bread each and every day.  My favorite variations include bagels, english muffins, tortillas, lavash, pita and nan.  I've put together a week's worth of lunch ideas that are anything but, um, square -- hopefully you'll find inspiration and use these lunches as a jumping-point to creating lunches that work for your family!

Air Manny?

What does Manny Pacquiao have in common with Michael Jordan, Michael Johnson, Charles Barkley, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams?  Yes, they're all top athletes and they are (or were) the best at what they do, but they are (or in Lance Armstrong's case, used to be) Nike endorsers. Nike signed Pacquiao back in 2006, but I had never actually seen Manny Pacquiao apparel in stores until today.

How to make your own chocolate chip cookie cake

Over the years, it has become a family tradition to serve ice cream cake at our kids' birthday parties, but this year Jammy wants a party at a science museum and 3Po wants a party at a rock climbing gym.  Alfie and I are going to have our hands full at both parties, herding kids around the museum and belaying them at the gym, so I don't want the added stress of picking up an ice cream cake and keeping it cold.

Both boys decided they wanted a cookie cake like they've seen at the Mrs. Field's kiosks -- but they cost $40 each (that's one expensive cookie!), and we'd probably need 2 per party.  I decided to try making one myself.  Here's what I did:

What's for lunch this week?

Ham & cheese on whole wheat bread, sweet potato chips, trail mix

Did you know that yesterday was Blue Monday?  The third monday of January is supposedly the most depressing day of the year.  I don't know if there's any science or statistics behind it, and it seems to apply only to Northern Hemisphere countries (I first heard about it on the UK channel Sky Sports), but apparently the  combination of the cold/snow/rain, limited daylight, post-holiday blues, post-holiday BILLS and failed New Year's resolutions get people down in the dumps.

Her First Concert

Last night we took The Pea to her first-ever concert: Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.  As far as first concerts go, this one turned out to be a Monster one, thanks to concert sponsor Skype, and I'm hoping she'll forgive the lameness of the fact that she attended her first concert with her mom and dad, and focus on what an amazing time she had.

Belgian Chocolate + Philippine Mangoes = Bliss

This falls into the "Why Didn't I Think of That Myself?" category: combining two of the best foods in the world, Belgian chocolate and Philippine mangoes.  During our recent trip to the Philippines, a cousin introduced me to Cebu Best Mango Chocolate.  They're dried mangoes coated with Belgian chocolate, and the whole family is addicted. I heard a comedian say that sugar is the world's most powerful drug, and I think they're right, especially when it comes flavored in mango and chocolate.

We've been back in the US for 10 days and we're down to our last 12 pieces so I'm desperately searching the web for a dealer to supply me with a steady stash.  Any leads?  We're jonesing for more!

Click here for more photos of Cebu Best Mango Chocolate.

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Meats and Sweets: McDonald's in the Philippines

I've just come back from a 3-week vacation in my native country, the Philippines.  It was one of our busiest vacations ever, with no less than 3 side trips (and it would have been 4, had a typhoon not stopped us) to various parts of the country.  I had a long list of Must-Dos and Must-Sees that I never got around to completing, but one thing I simply had to do was visit a McDonald's restaurant and gorge on the local offerings that one simply cannot find in the US (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter).

What's for lunch this week?

PBJ bagel, fruit cup, red pepper strips

Happy New Year!  It's back to school and back to packing lunches, and I'm excited to be planning, packing and photographing our weekly school lunches throughout the year.  

Starting tomorrow, that is.    

If you're reading this post and hating me for being organized enough to prepare a whole week's worth of lunches ahead of time on the last weekend of winter break, don't be silly.   These are the lunches the kids ate the week before winter break (I didn't post any lunches that week).  Hey, I just got back last night from a 14-hour international flight!  In fact, when this post goes live, I'll probably still be sleeping in.  Hmmm, I guess I should wake up and get the kids to school....zzzzzz.......